Gower MSS - Harley 3869

John Gower

MS Hunter 59 T-2-17 Portrait of Gower folio 6v John Gower Vox Clamantis Glasgow Univ Library www.lib.gla.ac.uk

Descriptive Catalogue of the Manuscripts of the Works of John Gower
Derek Pearsall


London, British Library, MS Harley 3869

Confessio Amantis, with Latin addenda; Traitié, with associated Latin verses; Carmen super multipliciviciorumpestilencia; `Eneidos Bucolis'. Added material includes the Verses on Queen Margaret's Entry (on an added quire) and two Marian lyrics

s.xv, second quarter (addition s.xv med/ex)




fol.1 blank, except for later inscriptions


(fols 2r-4v) Verses on Queen Margaret's Entry into London


(Heading: Atte the Brigge foot in Suthwerke / Pees and plente. Ingredimini et replete terram.)  Moost cristen Princesse by influence of grace <> By contemplacioun of hys glorie. Deo gracias. Amen.


Lacks beginning; space at the top of fol.2v indicates awareness of the loss of an 8-line stanza with heading.


NIMEV 2200.  Same hand (s.xv2) as Items 12*-14*. Heading in the hand of John Stow (s.xvi ex). Printed by Brown (1912), Kipling (1982). Brown attributes the work to Lydgate, following Stow, and has been followed in this by subsequent scholars; however, Kipling demonstrates that it is not by Lydgate.



(fols 5r-356v) Confessio Amantis  Prol.1 - VIII.3172end

Torpor ebes sensus scola parua labor minimusque, etc. (6 lines of Latin verse).  Of hem þat writen vs tofore <> Oure ioie mai ben endeles


Book I (fol.18r), Book II (fol.56v), Book III (fol.93v), Book IV (fol.120v), Book V (fol.158v), Book VI (fol.240v), Book VII (fol.266r, but English text at 266v), Book VIII (fol.323v)


Text: collated by Macaulay (sigil H2): III.  `The MS’, says Macaulay (II.clx), `appears to be copied directly from F [MS Fairfax 3], and gives an excellent text, reproducing that of the Fairfax MS. with considerable accuracy, and for the most part copying also its mistakes and peculiarities’ (Macaulay gives a list of these), but correcting some obvious mistakes (he gives a few examples).  The MS has the same two pictures as Fairfax (see Griffiths 1983:167-8); also all the Fairfax summaries, shorter notes and glosses and a few additional ones: prima responcio, secunda responcio, tertia responcio at I.3247, 3271 (fol.54v), 3294 (fol.55r); nota at II.3243, 3265 (fol.90r); amans, confessor at V.5496, 5500 (fol.215v).  `Pope' is erased occasionally, e.g. II.2859 (fol.86r), VIII.145 (fol.325r).



(fol.356v) `Explicit iste liber' (in red)

            Explicit iste liber <> sub eo requiesce futurus

Text: the longer six-line version with added dedication to Henry IV.  The last 4 of the 6 lines, as well as item 4, are in the more formal hand of the scribe (but possibly in another hand)

Macaulay, III.478


(fol.357r) `Quam cinxere freta' (in red)

            Quam cinxere freta <> stat sine meta

            With rubric, `Epistola super huius’

Macaulay, III.479.


(fols 357v-361v) Traitié pour essampler les amantz marietz

            Pvsquil ad dit ci deuant <> saluement tenir (prose rubric).

Le creatour de toute creature <> Lamour parfit en dieu se iustifie

Macaulay, I.379-92.


(fol.361v)  `Quis sit vel qualis'

            Quis sit vel qualis <> splendet ad omne latus

Latin verses added to Traitié.

Macaulay, I.391-2.


(fol.362r)  Carmen de variis in amore passionibus (`Est amor in glosa')

            Est amor in glosa <> participantur ita

Latin verses added to Traitié

Macaulay, I.392


(fol.362r)  `Lex docet auctorum’

            Lex docet auctorum <> tutus adhibo thorum

Latin verses added to Traitié

Macaulay, I.392


(fols 362r-365v) Carmen super multiplici viciorum pestilencia

            Nota hic precipue carmen <> specialius inficiebantur (prose rubric).

Non excusatur <> iura tenenda deo

Latin verses copied after Confessio in some MSS

Macaulay, IV.346


(fol.366r) `Quia vnusquisque'  (in red)

            Quia unusquisque <> specialiter sortitus est

Long concluding prose rubric to Confessio. Later version, with condemnation of Richard II and praise of Henry of Lancaster, earl of Derby

Macaulay, III.479 (also at IV.360)


(fol.366v) `Eneidos Bucolis'

            Carmen quod quidam Philosophus <> gratantur transmisit (prose rubric)

            Eneidos Bucolisque < laus sit habenda locis

Latin verses copied after Confessio in some MSS

Macaulay, IV.361


(fols 366v-367vbO flos pulcherrime


Myght wisdom goodnesse of the Trinite <> Thi high bewte and to synge with herte mylde / O florum flos O flos pulcherime. The Latin line constitutes the refrain.

Hymn to the Virgin Mary. 23 8-line stanzas.  N.B. 8 stanzas are missed after stanza 5 and written in compressed form as fol.367vb with cue for insertion.

NIMEV 2168.  Printed by MacCracken (1913:60-63) from B.L.MS Add.31042, which lacks the first stanza of the present text



(fol.368ra-bAve virgo virginum


Aue virgo virginum que verbo concepisti <> Amen sit per secula seculorum. Amen. Aue Maria gratia plena dominus tecum, &c.

Latin acrostic hymn in praise of Mary in 17 quatrains of septameter.

Printed Dreves, vol.30, p.270 (this MS not cited)



(fol.368rb)  (Short prayer in Latin, prose)


Deus omnipotens creator omnium qui gloriosam virginem mariam <> in hoc seculo et gaudium in futuro. Amen


fol.368v           blank




Fol.5r has a large unframed ill-drawn picture of the sleeping Nebuchadnezzar and the statue of his dream, occupying the top and upper right margin of the first page of the Confessio.  This, called the `Image of Precious Metals’, is one of the two standard Confessio miniatures.  In this variant (see Scott 1996:II.109),  Nebuchadnezzar, crowned, sleeps on a bed in an alcove, with his head on a red tasselled cushion.  The statue (right) stands in a grassy enclosure, head, neck, lower torso and upper legs gold, body, arms and lower legs black; naked, navel but no genitals; flesh-coloured segment for four smaller toes of each foot.  Fol.18r (beginning of Book I) has a picture of the Lover and Confessor, the other standard Confessio miniature, occupying the top left quarter of the page.  It is in a double gilded frame, with leafy scroll-work between the double bars of the border in blue and pale brown.  In an undulating green treed landscape, the Lover (left) in a fur-trimmed blue cloak with red belt, large pale brown fur-trimmed hat, hands outstretched, not together; Confessor (right) in pale brown clerical garb, skull-cap with decorated band around it, hair sticking out both sides, red-clad arms protruding from sleeves of cloak, left hand pointing, right hand to side of head.


The simple pictures, and the single column text on unruled paper, argue a modest customer, though the MS is a careful professional production, with meticulous attention to text-correction and the correct placement of the decoration..




In addition to the Nebuchadnezzar picture, fol.5 has a partial demi-vinet (top and left borders) opening from a 3-line gold initial.  Four-line pen-flourished initials, blue on red, introduce Books I and II, and 6-line pen-flourished initials, blue on red, introduce Books III-VIII; the flourishing is not elegant. Similar 3-line and 4-line initials introduce major text-divisions. Two-line initials, with less flourishing, blue on red alternating with red on blue, introduce a few Latin verse-headings and occasional minor text-divisions; similarly alternating one-line initials introduce most Latin verse-headings and most minor text-divisions. Pen-flourished blue paraphs introduce Latin summaries, glosses and shorter notes, the marginal marking of Latin verse-headings as versus, and running titles; all are written in red.


The Traitié has a 4-line pen-flourished initial at the beginning, 3-line initials for each balade, and one-line initials for each stanza.  Latin rubrics and summaries are introduced by paraphs.  The longer Latin poems have 2-line, 3-line or 4-line initials, with one-line, 2-line or 3-line initials for minor text-divisions and for the shorter poems.  All initials are pen-flourished.  Spaces were left for the rubrication of item 12* but it was not carried out, and the guide-letters are visible.




I           285 x  190 mm. The first 4 leaves are parchment, the first now remounted, and the first three trimmed to a smaller size. The rest of the MS is paper (unicorn-head watermark, Briquet from 1409), with parchment for outer leaves of quires.  .


II         4 + 364.  Contemporary foliation of the Gower portion, in the same hand as one set of quire signatures, runs to fol.121 (i.e. present 125) and then disappears. Modern foliation 1-368.


III        Collation: (Scribe A) i4   (Scribe B) i14, ii-vi16, vii18, viii-x16, xi18, xii-xxii16, xxiii10.  Catchwords, undecorated, in the scribe's hand; additional catchwords in a rougher hand at fols 56v, 75v, 90v, 111v, 118v, 184v (i.e. to introduce leaves iv7, v9, vi9, vii14, viii3, xii2).  Quire signatures in the hand of the contemporary foliator with arabic numbers for quires; another set of quire signatures, apparently in the hand of the additional catchword-writer (this hand grows very rough after quire ix), uses letters. Both sets run to leaf 8 (sometimes 9) of the quire.


IV        Written space 215 x 90 mm. (excluding marginal summaries). 38-46 (occasionally up to 50) lines per page, single column (except items 12*-14* in double column).  Ink ruling to fol.11r only, thereafter pencil or drypoint for top and left margin only.  Running titles in red across opening (except for `Prologus', which appears in full both verso and recto). Latin verse-headings in red in column. Latin summaries, glosses and shorter notes in red in margin; summaries often run under the text-column, so that the summary can be set on the appropriate page.  The placement of the apparatus follows MS Fairfax 3 very closely (e.g. summaries at I.761, fol.22v; I.1910, fol.35v; I.2398, fol.45r). Explicits and incipits in column in large version of main script, sometimes both on one line, sometimes on successive lines.  The Traitié has the Latin summaries in red in the margin and the Latin rubrics in red in the column


V         Scribe 1 writes items 1*, 12*-14*, in a very precise anglicana, very closely written in the insertion at fol.367vb.  Scribe 2 (of the Gower portion) writes a painstaking anglicana with some awkward secretary features. The text has been corrected by the scribe, with the many omitted lines written in beside the line preceding (e.g. Prol.16, fol.5r; Prol.394, fol.10r; I.222, fol.20v; I.234, fol.20v) and omitted words written beside the line with a caret below the line at the place of insertion (e.g. Prol.686, ‘hield’, fol.13v; I.1524, ‘hys’, fol.35v). Prol.243, copied by mistake after 241, is crossed through and written in the correct place later. The two lines at I.1004-5 are copied as one, due to eyeskip, then crossed out, and rewritten as two in the margin, fol.25v. The Juno gloss is repeated at V.1189, crossed out, and the correct note inserted, fol.169v; other mistakes in the Latin glosses are likewise carefully corrected, e.g. at VII.50 (fol.267r) and VII.1417 (fol.281r).  At III.1897 (fol.112r), nine omitted lines are written in at the side.



VI        The raised punctus at line-end is used regularly by Scribe 2 in his first few folios, then sporadically (though occasionally still for rhetorical punctuation in mid-line, e.g. III.475, fol.98r), but eventually dies out completely; there is sporadic, occasionally prolific (e.g. fols 158v and following, the opening of Book V) use of the inverted semi-colon, though only rarely with a clear purpose (e.g. V.101, fol.158v).


VII      Sewn on 5 tabs, late 19th century, quarter-bound in blue-black morocco, spine and corner tabs with single gold fillet at edge, over blue grained morocco cloth.  Gold-stamped crest of British Museum on front, and gold lettering on spine: J.GOWER.\ CONFESSIO \ AMANTIS,\ ETC.\\ BRIT.MUS.\ HARLEY MS \ 3869


2o fo    (fol.3r) Siewed by grace and good mediacioun

            (of Confessio, fol.6r) The world wich neweth euery day




fol.1r (at top of page, the first inscription partly cropped, s.xv ex)

`Mater ostendit filio pectus et ubera. filius patri latus et vulnera. nulla potest ess>/ vbi sunt tot amoris insignia'. The Last Judgment scene in which Mary and Christ plead for mercy by showing their love: close to the words of St Anthony of Padua in his sermon for the First Sunday in Advent. The word cropped after ‘ess>’ would be ‘repulsa’

`Septem opera […..]  versus'. If the illegible word is ‘misericordiae’ (heavily abbreviated), this would refer to the next item.

`Colligo. poto. cibo. redimo. tego. visito. condo'. An often-cited mnemonic for the Seven Corporal Acts of Mercy (see Vauchez 2000: 941)

`Rex sedet in cena turba cinctus duodena / Se tenet in manibus se cibat ipse cibus' (Walther 26863)

`London ye 28 Jany /1628 /George Ogiluy'/ Jo.Gower /de Confessione /Amantis’ (all in the same hand)

‘Cottrell’ (s.xvii). Noted by Harris 1993:199.

fol.1v   `Vnsaid Vngude' (s.xvi). This looks like a variant of `All things are good unseyit', which is recorded for 1628 in Wilson (1970:11); but cf. also `Al thing is gud onassayt', cited from Gavin Douglas in Whiting (1968), T142.  For the form (two consecutive negative participial adjectives), cf. Whiting U2, U5, U6.

Richard /Moorer (s.xvi med). Noted by Harris 1993:199).

fol.2r   (top)  `1445: ye 28 of May Quene margaret <    > the Citie of london'.  s.xvi ex.,  the hand of John Stow (see below)

`Janu:22 1729/30 Oxford'

‘R.C.’  large initials (s.xviii), right margin

fol.4v   `George Ogiluy' (s.xvi ex) overwritten in Latin form so as to make `Liber Georgii Ogiluii ex bono Pecuniarum'

fol.34r (beside I.1403) `fflorent' (s.xv/xvi). There are similar brief subject-matter markings and annotations in the same hand occasionally throughout the MS, e.g. fols 78r (II.2077), 106v (III.1331), 172r (V.1316), 192r (V.3243, ‘Medea’), 216v (V.5551), 220r (V.5919, ‘the nytyngale/ & the swalo & þe lepyng’ - the metamorphoses at the end of the story of Tereus), 230r (V.6852, nota, Faunus mistakes Hercules in bed for Eole – perhaps an example of what Harris, 1993:41, calls ‘strong stuff’), 227r (V.6557, ‘And on cosse’, the stolen kiss). Only the more unusual are noted below. See further Harris 1993:226, 230.

fol.57r (beside running title) `enuy' (repeated in same position on some succeeding pages) in same hand (s.xv/xvi) as other annotations, repeated on some succeeding pages; likewise, with similar irregularity, with names of sins in succeeding books, III (`vrath'), IV (`Sloth'), V (`covetus'), VI (`Gloteny'), VIII (`lechere' and/or `pride').

fol.104r (at III.1081) `Amans velut quasi sicut veluti' (s.xv/xvi)

fol.133v (at IV.1262)  `Ware yee women þt yee bere non haltres' (s.xv/xvi)

fol.149r (at IV.2757)  `1 Atropos \ 2 Lachesis \ 3 Cloto’  (s.xvii)

fol.168v (at V.773)  marginal recopying of line (same hand as fol.184r)      

fol.174r (at V.1509)   ‘a ragged tre ys made ymage’ (anti-Lollard outrage?)

fol.182r (at V.2255)  `Richard Man<…>' (s.xvi)  top right

fol.184r (at V.2489) Latin marginal gloss (a proverb) written out again (s.xv)

fol.199r  Richard Mannire (s.xv)  top right

fol.357r  The rubric to item 4 (`Epistola super huius',etc.) is written out again  in the large space left blank on this page in what looks like a good s.xv hand (or, if a later imitation, an expert one)

`Lorde Ogiluy'  (s.xvii)

fol.366v           `Basyl ffyldyng  Goodythe ffeldyng'  (s.xvi first half)

fol.367r           `Goodythe ffyldyng' (s.xvi first half)




 The inscriptions on fols 366-7 refer to Basil Feilding, second son and heir of Sir William Feilding (d.1547) of Newnham Paddox in Monk's Kirby, Warwickshire, and to his wife Goodith (d.1580), daughter of William Willington of Barcheston in Warwickshire.  Basil was sheriff of Warwickshire 10 Eliz.  See Nichols (1810), IV.288; Wright 1972:158; Harris 1993:199.  Their son William was made first Earl of Denbigh in 1622 (DNB).


The MS was subsequently in the possession of or passed through the hands of John Stow, as may be deduced from the presence of his hand at fol.2r (identified by Kipling 1982:9).


The name of a later owner (fols 1r, 4v, 357r) is misread `Cogiluy' by Macaulay (II.clx), followed by Wright (1972:107). It is clearly `Ogiluy'.  There are many Ogilvy families in the 17th century, but only one, Ogilvy of Dunlugas in Banffshire, has an appropriately named candidate for 1628 (the date given on fol.1r).  The reference cannot be to Sir George Ogilvy of Dunlugas who died in 1621, nor to his second son, George, who died in 1625, though it could be to the latter's eldest son, George, created baronet in 1626 (d.1632).  However, it is more likely to be to the more notable Sir George Ogilvy (earlier called George Ogilvy of Carnousie), eldest son and heir of Sir Walter Ogilvy (d.1625), the eldest son and heir of the Sir George who died in 1621.  His mother was Helen, daughter of Walter Urquhart of Cromarty.  He was created baronet of Nova Scotia in 1627 and first lord of Banff (whence perhaps the title on fol.357r) in 1642.  He died in 1663.  His name also appears in Yale UL MS 535.  See DNB; Douglas 1813:191-2; GEC I.410; Harris 1993:199.  Sir George does not seem to have been much in London, which is perhaps why he makes a point of mentioning it (fol.1r).  In 1628 he slew his cousin James, which does not seem a very proper occupation for the owner of a Gower MS.


The inscription on fol.2r presumably records the date on which the MS passed into the hands of Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford (1689-1741)




Macaulay, II.clx

Catalogue of the Harleian Manuscripts in the British Museum [by Robert Nares, et al], 4 vols (London, 1808), III.89

Brown, Carleton, `Lydgate's Verses on Queen Margaret's Entry into London', Modern Language Review, 7 (1912), 225-34

Douglas, Robert, The Peerage of Scotland, rev. John Philip Wood (Edinburgh, 1813)

Dreves, Guido M. (ed.), et al., Analecta Hymnica Medii Aevi, 55 vols, 1886-1922

GEC [G.E.Cokayne], The Complete Peerage, rev. Hon.Vicary Gibbs, 14 vols. London, 1910-1959

Griffiths, Jeremy, ’Confessio Amantis: The Poem and its Pictures', in Minnis, A.J. (ed.), Gower's Confessio Amantis: Responses and Reassessments.  Cambridge: D.S.Brewer, 1983.

Harris, Kate, `Ownership and Readership: Studies in the Provenance of the Manuscripts of Gower's Confessio Amantis'.  Unpublished D.Phil. dissertation, University of York, 1993.

Kipling, Gordon, `The London Pageants for Margaret of Anjou: A Medieval Script Restored', Medieval English Theatre, 4 (1982), 5-27

MacCracken, H.N., `Lydgatiana', Archiv, 131 (1913), 40-63 (text of `O flos pulcherrime', pp.60-63)

Nichols, John, History and Antiquities of the Town and Country of Leicester, 4 vols. (1795-1812)

NIMEV.  Julia Boffey and A.S.G.Edwards (eds), A New Index of Middle English Verse. London: The British Library, 2005

Scott, Kathleen L., Later Gothic Manuscripts 1390-1490 (A Survey of Manuscripts Illustrated in the British Isles, general editor, J.J.G.Alexander), 2 vols, London: Harvey Miller, 1996

Vauchez, André (ed.), Encyclopaedia of the Middle Ages (1997; English translation, Cambridge: James Clarke, 2000)

Walther, H., Proverbia Sententiaeque Latinitatis Medii Ævi (Lateinische Sprichwörter und Sentenzen des Mittelalters) (Göttingen, 1963-9)

Whiting, Bartlett Jere, with the collaboration of Helen Westcott Whiting, Proverbs, Sentences and Proverbial Phrases from English Writings mainly before 1500 (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1968)

Wilson, F.P. (ed.), The Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs, 3rd ed., rev.  Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1970

Wright, Cyril Ernest, Fontes Harleiani: A Study of the Sources of the Harleian Collection of Manuscripts preserved in the Department of Manuscripts in the British Museum. London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1972


I am grateful to Dr J.W.Binns for his help with the identification of the Latin on fol.1r.




"I throw my darts and shoot my arrows at the world. But where there is a righteous man, no arrow strikes. But I wound those who live wickedly. Therefore let him who recognizes himself there look to himself."
Vox Clamantis

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